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Thursday, November 25

the people of gold mountain

Created: November 25 at 8:05 AM

Last edit: November 26 at 9:01 PM


After being surrounded by company for so long -- Vivien, Maggie, Kristie, Ally, JGuo; the sometimes thrilling, sometimes comforting, sometimes suffocating pulse of San Francisco; Edyfi's Mill Valley and Maggie and Chendan's East Bay in the summer -- the trip to Danville is starkly solitary. In the dark of night, mountain roads, then highways, then suburban streets scroll by out the window. I lug the keyboard, stand and wires balanced on top of it, into Danville Music, a pocket of warmth and light. Then I dispose of it along with the lingering notes of improvs, covers, and duets -- the fingerprints of Will, Maggie, Nick -- behind the counter and head back out into the cold night.

I've never talked to JGuo in person before. I don't ever remember even seeing him in person, though he tells me otherwise. But the rhythm of our conversation feels like Andover, feels like Arno and Steph and Oder and Twei. I remember Arno excitedly telling me he could be the older brother to me he never had (Steph and I chuckled at his unawareness of the true weight of being an older sibling later) and realize that this feeling is the feeling of family, or, to not disregard my actual loving family, the second-closest thing to the feeling of family I've had. It feels like throwing fucked up families and fucked up selves into a pressure cooker and somehow creating a coherent bundle of resilience, thoughtfulness, and love. There's a moment when I feel more grounded than I have in months, two years, like I was existing in a way that could last if everyone and everything else fell away. I cut my dad off out of love for my mom and sister but only now do I realize that I'm drifting quickly away from them too, and maybe that's the way it has to be for a while, and maybe that's okay, maybe that's even comforting to finally confront.

Life doesn't have to move at breakneck pace if I simply manage my commitments and work well ahead of time. I felt bored for the first time in a long time this semester and it was glorious. I wish I were bored now instead of working on an overdue paper with another to come -- but somehow I've been making time for the moment, or matching others' detatchment from it. Just scraping by, compromising everything.

Talking to Vivien about comp civics and her Berkeley philosophy friend I realize how little I know, how much foundation I lack having never done MUN or debate or anything similar. I feel bad for myself as I have many times before, then I arrive at a much more straightforward idea: it's okay to not know things. I know only what I do, which is a fair amount in many contexts, and what I don't know I can admit, or ask about, or learn about later without anxiety; in fact there's nothing else I should do about it. I think back to Ryan Delk's main takeaway from coaching, which I didn't appreciate at the time: learning to stop habitually faking competence. I think about JGuo's advice: don't think about your potential, hypotheticals, what-ifs: acknowledge your past experience as having gotten you where you are now and no further, providing you with all of the abilities you have to act in the present. I am who I am and that's all I am and in each moment that's enough.

Today I retraced my steps up to Mill Valley, to Taqueria Cacun in Mission, to the Mission Edyfi house that is now Alex Wu's co-living house. Alex asks me how the summer was, and I rattle off my two takeaways about how much effort goes into community organizing and how much I've come to appreciate having my own space. JGuo asks me if it's fine if he cooks something with cheese and I think about all the salads with goat cheese and other random cheese-containing things I've let myself eat at dining halls and tell JGuo yeah, fine, I can make the exception. The clock strikes midnight and my phone tells me my Instagram screen time has reset. Liam Hinzman watches Mr. Beast's Squid Game recreation on the couch on the other wall of the room. It's time to get back to Diderot and Marx and other such ideas that are too big and disconnected from me at the moment for me to grasp.


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Made with ♥ in New York by Samson Zhang